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Big B's real life fight

A series of stomach ailments has been bogging him down since 1982. But Big B has shown exemplary courage during his health ordeal as he "accepts his fate with a smile". Here's an account of the after-effects of 1982 Coolie accident that he is coping with till date.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2012 16:11 IST
Parmita Uniyal
Parmita Uniyal
Hindustan Times

When Amitabh Bachchan wrote on his blog that he'd undergo a "not too complicated" abdominal surgery on February 11, his fans waited with anxiety, knowing his history of stomach ailments, post the dreadful 1982 Coolie accident. After the news of successful completion of his surgery, many heaved a sigh of relief, only to be taken aback by news of another surgery that will keep Amitabh Bachchan within the confines of hospital for some more time.

"Some more tests... more unpronounceable medication... and... another visit to the OT... operation theatre! Going to be a long stay. I refrain from giving greater details of my the West patient has the right to not disclose - even to family!!, Bachchan wrote on Twitter.

"The night started off with great apprehensions, what with the temperature of the fever going up – always a dangerous signal. But the mercury fell during the the morning there was a freshness and hope of repair. Soon afterwards though, the additional pain that has developed in the abdomen, apart from the surgical, kept doctors busy and going into a huddle," Bachchan wrote on his blog giving more details about his present condition.

Amitabh Bachchan is set to face another surgery

"Heavy dosages of even more antibiotics were pumped in, and to facilitate this operation they had to wheel me in to the OT again to put a 'central line', through an incision on the neck...Procedure over, tubes and tapes being attached," he added.

“Let me just say that the issue and the problem is a legacy of the past in particular the accident of 1982 on the sets of Coolie. Subsequent disturbances have all and shall emanate from it. So I should learn to bear it now, feel the compulsion of the doctors to perform what they need to and leave myself and my body at their mercy,” Mr. Bachchan had shared in his blog.

The exemplary courage that he has shown during his health ordeal probably stems from a series of stomach ailments that has been bogging him down since 1982.

1982 Coolie accident

Who can forget the tragic Coolie accident that Bachchan met with while filming an action scene with co-star Puneet Issar. The actor nearly escaped death following the accident. In fact, he reportedly clinically died for eleven minutes. But like it happens in Bollywood films, he revived, as wife Jaya Bachchan exclaimed, "look his toe is moving". But alas, that was just the starting of his health troubles.

During a 1983 interview, Bachchan realised how he was privileged to have the best of medicines, being imported from abroad, while others who did not have the luxury, suffered haplessly. In a 1983 interview the actor talked at length about the transformation he underwent post the Coolie accident - "There were people who want to know details as to how it all happened and whether it was the punch or the table or whatever, and I tell them that it's not important as to how I was injured, but what really is important is the lack of medical facility after I was injured and what made me really aware of these factors when I was in the hospital was that we sadly lack timely facility towards people who might be in similar condition that I was."

“I find that we have the brain and the talent amongst us to cope with any emergency. But we lack in facility, we lack in equipment and perhaps finance to set up this equipment. When I was in hospital there was help coming from every quarter, and I want to say in all immodesty that there was help coming from abroad, there were doctors flown in from London. There was medicine coming in from Singapore, England and America because I have the financial capacity… but what if it wasn't me, what if it was an ordinary poor man on the streets, who's in similar condition. Would he be able to afford similar treatment? Had he not been able to afford, what would have been his end. And that was one of the things that was most distressing.”

He shares an anecdote - "There was a girl, I remember in Breach Candy with me. She is about 3 years old. She had been admitted for gangrene in her lower portion. And one of the doctors was telling me that there are medicines coming in for you every day, do you think it's possible for you to get a particular medicine for this patient, this girl, who's almost certainly going to die because she has reached a stage where we can't cure it now? And I said yes medicines were coming every day. We got the medicine for her the next day. She was cured and she went home in three days. And I was very happy for her. What distressed me was the reaction of her mother when the doctor went and told her that we have tried a new medicine that has been flown in for you. The mother said whoever is getting this medicine, and wherever it's coming from don't tell me its cost because I won't be able to afford it. And tell the person who got the medicine to pay up. This distressed me because I wonder how many people in our country are going through this."

Myasthenia Gravis

While Big B, as he's lovingly called by his fans, thanked god for keeping him alive, another life-threatening disease Myasthenia Gravis struck Amitabh Bachchan. It is a neuromuscular ailment that causes muscle weakness and fatigue. In Bachchan’s case it happened primarily because of the heavy intake of medicines after the accident. Following the ailment, Bachchan had to reduce his workload.

Diverticulitis of the small intestine

In 2005, Bachchan's health failed him again. The ailment that he thought was a gastro problem turned out to be diverticulitis of the small intestine. Doctors at the hospital said that the ailment was a rare occurrence and could have proved fatal had it not been attended to in time. In the patients, the walls of the large or the small intestine tend to get weaker leading to an inflammation. Hi-fibre diets can prevent this and antibiotics are needed to cure it. In severe cases, like in Bachchan’s case, an operation is needed. During his November 2005 illness Bachchan was in the hospital for two months.

Liver Cirrhosis

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan some years back also revealed he suffers from liver cirrhosis even though he doesn't drink alcohol. The actor said he contracted the disease after his near fatal accident while shooting Coolie in 1982.

"Friends, relatives, well wishers and the workers and staff of our pharmaceutical factory, all lined up (to give blood). I lived. That was 1982, almost 28 years ago. But in and around the year 2000-2002, a routine investigation threw up a scenario which had hitherto gone undetected," the actor posted on his blog.

Amitabh Bachchan taken to the hospital in 2008

Amitabh met with the accident during one of the action scenes in the film Coolie. His surgery required a lot of blood. The urgency of its administration propelled several volunteers to come forward. Two hundred people donated blood and 60 bottles of blood were collected and injected into him. But, this caused the problem.

"Some of the blood from an unknown donor was infected with the Australian antigen Hepatitis. This particular infection or mode in a particular blood donor has the unique quality of getting active inside the system after lying dormant for a couple of months.

"It was also an unknown hepatitis in 1982 and there were, perhaps due to the urgency of the matter, no known immediate tests to ascertain its existence before it was administered. So it went into my system, festered and attacked my liver.

"Eight years ago, during the course of an MRI, they discovered that 25 per cent of my liver had been destroyed by it. I was, therefore, technically or shall we say in medical terminology, a patient by default. A patient that had developed cirrhosis of the liver - a condition that is normally associated with that of an alcoholic. So here I was, a non- alcoholic, a teetotaler, with an ailment that I imbibed through a blood transfusion from a donor," he added.

Owing to this problem, the 67-year-old actor has to get himself monitored on a regular basis.

"Now since the liver and any ailment associated with it is extremely sensitive, I have to be under constant vigil and monitoring, to keep checking if there is any further damage taking place. A few days back my blood report showed a sudden rise in my liver counts and the doctor felt it necessary to investigate further through an MRI. For me, this is an every three month procedure," Bachchan said.

On October 11, 2008 Bachchan suffered breathlessness and stomach pain and went off to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai for a checkup. The history hit him again. He was taken to the Lilavati Hospital for treatment, where he was immediately admitted.

Photos: Big B in hospital during 2008

Like he does every time, Big B, who still can't resist sharing all the details of his health on Twitter, will bounce back again, for sure. As far as health problems are concerned, Big B has somewhat accepted the fate as he writes on his blog: "I sometimes lament the fact that I do not have the benefit of a complete and ailment-free body structure, and I wonder how wonderful it would be to be normal again. But this was my fate and I shall accept it with a smile."

First Published: Feb 17, 2012 18:59 IST